“Please say no! Please say no!”

Years ago, I worked for a national drug store chain as a clerk.  We had a manager and several shift managers.  Our nightly closing tasks included rounding up the shopping carts from the parking lot and making bags of ice.  Every evening, the closing shift manager (let’s call him Mason) would come up to me and ask, “Would you rather make the ice or get the carts?”  Well, I really hated making the ice so I always chose to get the carts.  One night, Mason asked me as usual what I’d like to do, and again I chose the carts.  He actually stamped his foot on the floor like a little kid and whined, “You ALWAYS do the carts!”  I said, “Mason, you’re in charge!  If you want to get the carts, just TELL me to go make the ice!”  “But I wanted to give you a choice!”  “And I took it!”  “But it’s not faaaair!” 

I don’t think Mason ever understood his own actions.  He probably thought he was trying to be a “good guy” by offering me a choice, but it wasn’t really a choice at all if he were only willing to accept one answer.  It’s similar to friends who offer to give you a ride to the airport or help you move into a new house but secretly think, “Please say no, please say no!”, and then are resentful when you say yes.  If I don’t want to help a friend move, guess what?  I DON’T OFFER! (though it’s different if they ask me for help)

I’ve often said I’d rather work for a grumpy S.O.B. (though not to the point of abuse) who is fair and consistent than a boss who tries to be everyone’s friend but is either passive-aggressive in his (or her) managing or dumps all the work on the good workers because he’s too “nice” to discipline or fire the bad ones.  While it’s great if your boss is a nice guy and you get along with him, it’s not a popularity contest.  You’re there to work.  His job is to manage and delegate, not to be your friend.  And bosses should realize that too.  Fair and consistent first, then worry about being the good guy.

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